Running a service business can be a great chance to earn money doing something you love while helping others. The trouble is that many small business owners are a bit shy about marketing themselves effectively.
One way to combat this is to enlist the help of others who believe in you, and are therefore willing to refer you to others.
Recent studies have shown that word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful methods for growing a business. People are much more likely to accept a recommendation from someone on their social network than from any marketing material they might see from a company. This being the case, it is important to make sure you have happy customers, and cultivate them as a referral system so you can get steady work regularly without having to spend a lot of time chasing after it.
Your first step is to target the kind of clients you would like more of. Some can be wonderful to work with, pay you on time, and really value your efforts. Others are less pleasant to work with, and you would not really want more like them.
They should obviously be a best fit for your niche or industry as well – someone who really understands what you do and would therefore be willing to point others in your direction because they know how good you are.
Let People Know You Are Looking
You may not be on the lookout for new work all the time, but when you are, let them know. Stay in touch with them via your email marketing service. Offer a special discount code for them, and anyone they refer, to help drum up more business.
Support Them with the Right Information
Create a page that tells those who wish to refer you exactly what they need to know. Be sure it has a link to your portfolio.
Think about Complimentary Niches
Try to work with other people in your industry who do similar things to you, but are not direct competitors. Also consider niches that might be a good fit. If you are already working in health, for example, fitness, weight training, weight loss and so on might all be good areas to expand into. Impress your clients and they will be happy to tell others about you.
This can be a bit tricky, because it is really like a bribe and you need to administer the program to make sure everyone gets what they are entitled to. However, it can be a great way to get more referrals. Think discounts, one free month of service, an upgrade, and so on. Remember, 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers, so keep your existing ones happy.
Ask for Referrals at the Right Time
Some business owners make the mistake of asking for a referral as soon as the new client has signed up. The trouble is, how do they know whether they like you or not? Ask for referrals once a project has been completed. Also ask in your regular email newsletter to clients.
Another good time to ask would be at the end of a survey in which you remind them of all the services you currently offer, and then ask them what other services they would find useful if you were to add them to your business.
It’s easier than you may think to get good referrals, and it is a great way to get more business with minimum effort.